CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - The air in parts of the Midwest and South has become so contaminated with the weed killer dicamba that it has caused widespread damage to soybeans and other crops in recent summers, testified Dr. Ford Baldwin, a professor emeritus of weed science at the University of Arkansas in federal court on Thursday. Amid the pollution, thousands of farmers have filed complaints about cupping leaves, stunted growth and lower yields. Among those is Bill Bader, the owner of the largest peach farmer in Missouri, who is suing German agribusiness giants Bayer and BASF, alleging they created the situation with the release of their joint dicamba cropping system.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies released their dicamba-related products beginning in 2015 knowing that it would result in damage to farms, creating more demand for their products.
The contamination is occurring because so many farmers are spraying so much of the weed killer at the same time that it builds up in the air to high enough levels that it is unable to dissipate, Baldwin said. Small amounts of the weed killer volatize, or turn into gas, and in stable atmospheric conditions, what is effectively an invisible cloud of weed killer spreads across the landscape, he said.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - In June 2018, Bill Bader’s grandson wanted a ripe peach to eat, so the two got in an all-terrain vehicle and drove to the area of Bader’s farm where the fruit would be about the size of baseballs, ready to eat fresh off the tree. Only when they got there, the peaches were on the ground. The weakened trees just couldn’t hold the fruit. The grandson asked Bader what to do now.
ByJohnathan Hettinger/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — In February 2015, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considering whether to approve a new Monsanto weed killer anticipated to be sprayed on tens of millions of acres of crops, many researchers wanted to see how the herbicide would work in the field. University researchers had been requesting the tests in order to ease farmers’ fears about crop damage, and Monsanto scientists wanted to conduct tests to help draft recommendations for farmers who would use the pesticide. But knowing federal regulators were paying attention to the new weed killer's potential to contaminate other fields, the company decided to “pull back” on testing to allow dicamba to have a “clean slate,” according to an email from Dr. Tina Bhakta, who, in her role as global chemistry expansion lead for Monsanto, was responsible for obtaining EPA registration for the weed killer. The email was included in Bhakta’s video testimony Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in a civil lawsuit filed by Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in the state, against German agribusiness giants BASF and Bayer, which bought St.
ByClaire Hettinger / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Last week, we hosted a discussion regarding our pesticide drift sensor project. Twenty-five people from various industries including scientists from the University of Illinois, local public health officials, the Champaign County Farm Bureau, and environmental focus groups gathered at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department as we presented our findings from the project and asked for their input.
Pesticides are all over, from backyard gardens to cornfields. While their use doesn’t appear to be slowing, concern over drift and the resulting effects on health is driving research — and more worries.